The Self-Sufficiency Program: 30 Years of Changing Lives
In this wondrous season of gratitude and hope, I would like to spotlight the inspiring work of the Self-Sufficiency Program (SSP) and congratulate SSP faculty, staff and administration on improving lives for 30 years. SSP is housed at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse (in the Department of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies) but is open to all adults who possess a high school diploma, GED or HSED. The program “extends the availability of higher education to low-income parents by preparing them to be successful college students” (www.uwlax.edu/ssp). SSP is a free, one-semester precollege program that meets one or two evenings per week during the fall and spring semesters. Complimentary childcare is also provided at the same location as the classes. After completing SSP, students go on to a degree program at one of the three institutions of higher education in La Crosse or at another regional college or university. But the financial assistance doesn’t stop there. SSP graduates in their first four semesters of college qualify for the Locally Grown Scholarship. Many carry a B or better college grade point average and have majored in a variety of undergraduate areas, with some continuing on for graduate, law, or medical degrees. The student-parents serve as role models for their children, with the result that the children themselves often experience increased success in school and community activities.
So, as Director Andrea Hansen often says, “Lives are changed – two generations at a time.”
I recently had the privilege of attending two SSP events, both commemorating the program’s 30th anniversary. The first was a Poet’s Reception on November 12. SSP students, instructors, and graduates were encouraged to bring their families to hear them read poetry that they had written. Dr. Jan Wellik, SSP Writing instructor and Andrea Hansen, SSP Director edited and compiled the poems into a book titled “Truth Tellers: SSP Poetry Collection 2018.” The artwork for the cover of the document was created by Lisa Ehlers, SSP graduate and UW-L student.
The second event was the Fourteenth Annual SSP Locally-Grown Scholarship Breakfast, held on November 14. The speaker was Dr. Amy Sullivan, Director of SSP from 2002-2011. She described the concept of “historic mentors” – women in the past who achieved incredible goals. Dr. Sullivan indicated that she sees SSP as a mentoring organization and cited author bell hooks’ sentiment that caring about the souls of the students is a condition of learning. The breakfast also included a welcome from UW-L Chancellor Dr. Joe Gow and a celebration of the students receiving Fall 2018 Locally Grown Scholarship Awards.